Peripheral neuropathies associated with monoclonal proteins have received considerable attention as a clinically important group of chronic late-onset neuropathies. When a monoclonal protein is found in patients with peripheral neuropathy of unknown cause, as occurs in 10% of such cases, usually no associated disease is discovered; hence MGUS. Less often, disorders such as multiple myeloma, AL amyloidosis, Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia, osteosclerotic myeloma, and lymphoma are found. Demyelinating neuropathies associated with MGUS of all classes, but particularly IgM, Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia, and osteosclerotic myeloma typically follow an indolently progressive course, and frequently respond to treatments aimed at interfering with putative underlying immune mechanisms. By contrast, axonal neuropathies associated with MGUS, multiple myeloma, and AL amyloidosis have generally shown no response to therapy. Recently, IgM monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies directed against human peripheral nerve antigens including MAG and various glycolipids such as GM1 ganglioside have been found in patients with specific neuropathy syndromes. Anti-MAG antibodies occur in predominantly sensory demyelinating neuropathies, whereas elevated titers of anti-GM1 ganglioside antibodies are associated with lower motor neuron syndromes with multifocal motor conduction block. Although the evidence for autoimmune mechanisms in some monoclonal protein-associated neuropathies is mounting, a causal connection between monoclonal proteins and these neurologic syndromes has yet to be established.
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